In Sirk’s first American film, John Carradine gives a frighteningly effective performance as real-life Nazi sadist Reinhard Heydrich, the so-called “Butcher of Prague,” whose assassination led the Third Reich to unleash horrifying retribution upon Czechoslovakia (an incident that was also the basis for Fritz Lang’s 1943 film Hangmen Also Die!). Sirk’s powerfully expressionistic style (with deep shadows courtesy of legendary German cinematographer Eugen Schüfftan, who worked uncredited) more than overcomes the Poverty Row budget. It turns this ode to Czech resistance into a shattering elegy for the victims of fascism. Look out for a 19-year-old Ava Gardner among a lineup of women whom Heydrich interrogates.
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